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The Pregnant Thoughts by Chijioke Ogbuike
by Shazia Batool Naqvi Bookmark and Share
This present article critiques the poetry in the book entitled: “Pregnant Thoughts” composed by Chijioke Ogbuike, popularly known as Don Ketchy, the musician, the poet with his own substantial share of emergence on the literary scene of Nigeria in the present times of the 21st century, and of course a voice from the country on the road of progress now after an untiring long struggle for Independence. It is a common though true assumption that the highlighted quality of the Nigerian poetry is in its being turbulent and protean in nature for a very solid reason of an uproarious past. The volume “Pregnant Thoughts” is a recount of the journey of the poet through the constellation of life along with all the untold dreams and unfulfilled wishes, as he himself said in the first poem, and all that which, being the son of his native soil, is going on in his mind.

In order to appreciate his poetry in the true essence, it would be good to have a cursory glance at the tradition of poetry composition in the history of the nation. Though the Nigerian poetry is a representation of one historical continuum, it can be calibrated into different thematic and technical realizations. The 1960s produced poems that were based on cultural nationalism and post-independence disillusionment; the poetry of the 1970s ruminated mostly on the Nigerian civil war; while the 1980s engendered poetry with ideological orientation. During the various phases, the emerging poets working on the canvas of history have been delineating the attendant disillusionment in the poetry, and poeticizing hope and imminent national rebirth.

On the track of many other great writers of the times, Chijioke Ogbuike takes the task on his shoulders to creatively reconstruct the “lost” past of his people, and to restore that past without either glamorizing, romanticizing or sentimentalizing it. He keeps his history alive on his pulse, of which we can find the traces in the lines:

“I am overcome with love for Swazi-this is my land
How could this rhythm ever be out of demand
Africa is my core…

We do not leave behind what is still relevant for the present
So we still do the reed dance to declare innocence to a world that is oh so transient…”

In contrast to the lines quoted above, he knows better when to get connected to the past for the purpose of restoration by learning based on the mistakes done in the past while when to forget about the past wrongs, and in this regard, he clearly means much to convey, as he says in these lines:

“Healing starts by forgiving
Not through the remembrance of the past
If there’s anything to be learnt, it is that there is more
To what lies ahead than looking back to errors that are vast…”
                                 - “Peace and Healing”

The poem “Peace and Healing” is like a manifesto of a reasonable and sensible living from the poet to the readers. It is segmented into 13 stanzas, dealing with the separate themes e.g. peace, religion, tolerance, sense of future, the ideals of a communal living, forgiveness, life and love. For its inherent wisdom wrapped up in a lucid language makes it quite a readable work along with all the pleasant messages.

Poetry has always been playing an effective role in providing the people with the necessary inspiration and deep insight. In an article, Dr. Jaya Lakshmi Rao writes that: “The language of poetry, for the African people, is a source of learning and becoming aware of their destiny that necessitates the knowledge of their past, present and the possible future.”

Nigerian literature manifests the struggles of a people whose country is undergoing the painful process of transformation from colonial through neo-colonial to wholly self-determining nation. In the poem “Reclaiming Hope” the gory past of Africa under the shade of Colonialism reflects its essence, and the last stanza is fully understood in this context. He says:

“This is the African continent and it has got content
This is not someone else’s figment of imagination
   or just a mere sentiment
Is no dope
If there is anything worth dying for
It is a legacy that is worth living for…”

These lines affirm a fresh and sound voice from the native soil of Africa. The work under-discussion is the part of the Nigerian literature manifesting the struggles of a people whose country has been undergoing the painful process of transformation from colonial through neo-colonial to wholly self-determining nation with a deep awareness of the situation, as the poet says:

“That is worthy now to remember
The children ask, is it so long ago that there was … Independence?”

The lines quoted above are from the poem, “Reclaiming Hope” suggesting us to keep in mind that colonization was at its severe fever in Africa, and as history stands proof, it was highly exploited and savaged by the ambitious  “white men”. Despite getting independence, the bitter memories reverberate again and again, the unforgettable colonial past resurrects all alive.

In Ogbuike’s words indicating his vision of religion, “commonality of worship does not mean all is well”, and his keen observation studies the evils of fanaticism, ethnicity, and racialism in the so-called religions superficially structured. The concept can be discerned well in these lines:

“I have no wish to go to Jerusalem
Just so I could be classified as one of them

I would rather sit cross-legged and motionless
if it could give me a society that would be sinless.”

So it is a better solution in his opinion,

“for a completely secure world, there must be no illusion
Of what we believe
Otherwise it may just turn out we
Have just been deceived

Let’s leave these gods alone
for they may not have the sights to see as we see.”
While reading the poems it is noticed that the poet’s mind is like the water body without the water-gates and his thoughts flow like the river which has never experienced any ebb, and therein lies the reason of what he himself cannot understand whether he composes poems or writes prose, though the tendency is much towards poetry with all the balanced beats that he creates by the use of the double sounds within a single line and across the lines creating the rhythmic and rhyming impression.

Ezenwa-Ohaeto observes in his article on Nigerian Pidgin Poetry writes that the pidgin language here acts as a bridge between the orality of verbal communication and the formality of the written word. This statement helps the reader explore the use of the language in pregnant thoughts scattered in these pages, which most often ignores the stringency of the grammar rules but focuses on the themes, symbols and motifs taken from the world of fiction, mythology, reality and folklore. In west Africa, English splits; Pidgin unites" (Okeke-Ezigbo, 34), this quote expands the understanding of the language used by the poet here carrying forward the tradition of the contemporaries and predecessors. The varieties of themes include the poem based on a news item of Mellissa allowing the poet to talk of the kind of love that he seeks for; hope, blessings, the social issues like unemployment, poverty, the haves and have-nots; the religious symbolic references of Abel and Cain, the mythical gods and priestesses, and it all goes beside the themes of imprisonment encoded in the cage and birds and flight symbols.

The inherent truth, deep observation and intense human experience form the basis for a meaningful written expression in poetry. In the words of Ben Okri, “Reading, like writing, is a creative act. If reader only brings a narrow range of themselves to the book then they’ll only see their narrow range reflected in it.”

The reading of the pregnant thoughts offered by Chijioke Ogbuike deserves the broad outlook of the readers into the themes emerging out of the soil so rich and fertile in the presentation of imagination and reality together in the meaningful expression by the poet himself, who asks us to realize,

“It is a war we are on; it is a fight we have to finish
In this turf, victory is only guaranteed when we fight from within.”

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More by :  Shazia Batool Naqvi
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Comments on this Article

Comment it's simply superb.

thomas varghese
07/18/2014 05:07 AM

Comment Shahzia Batool is a Kohinoor which shall be ever gleaming why not kept in the darkest corner. May God bless her a too long life with all pleasures n joys. love peace n prosperity may touch her feet .
my love affection n regards are ever for her. my heart fills with joy when she address me Bhayya (elder brother).

ramesh rai
02/04/2014 15:02 PM

Comment Dear Shazia, Your understanding and criticism are much apprecaited. Keep it up!

10/25/2013 02:46 AM

Comment The Joys shared!

I thank Allah The Almighty for all His blessings on me...
Respected Chijioke Ogbuike, thank you for trusting me with the manuscript, as well as assigning the task of writing the Foreword to your book...and i also extend my thanks to all the honored friends who read the review and encouraged me by their precious words on it. Your time is valued much!
the acknowledgements are due to the web-sources I used for studying the background historical context, like wikipedia, the, post-colonial, and Bridges of orality, Nigerian Pidgin poetry...

thank you all, I am obliged!

Shahzia Batool

10/24/2013 16:15 PM

Comment Once I told Shahzia that she has this singular capability of taking her reader on a journey into deeper insights on the work of poets that she reviewed. This must be some kind of special artistry which comes from an understanding far beyond the ken of ordinary review.

Since her review I have actually caught myself going back to the work 'Pregnant Thoughts' to look at it again and again and asking myself, 'did I actually write that...' I had no idea it was that fascinating until she came with those wonderful ink and those farsighted thoughts of hers.

I have read the other commentaries from those others who have also felt her magic not just on this particular review, but other reviews as well and I whole heartedly share the same conclusions as most... Not only has she began her is promising to be a very interesting and exciting one...bless...I

Chijioke Ogbuike
10/24/2013 15:02 PM

Comment Great review and incredible writing. Shahzia is able to penetrate in the mind of the poet and grab the thread of thoughts which influenced the poet in the creation of his work. Shahzia has written at a very high level in terms of review thoughts and quality of the language. I would love to see comments from Chijioke Ogbuike about this review.

Keep up the good work.

Syed N.S.Zaidi

Syed Noorul Shams Zaidi
10/23/2013 23:48 PM

Comment You are really amazing. Whatever subject you touch, you make it sound more interesting and it really adds to the knowledge of the readers. It also helps the readers to get help in how to be better in the same subject. Very well done and I feel a bit curious to read Chijioke Ogbuike.

10/22/2013 06:34 AM

Comment I'm grateful that Providence has blessed us with gleaming jewel like S. N. I'm amazed at the level of dispassionate reserach she invests in building the context for everyone's benefit, and then filling it up with infra-thought attributes of the poet that leaves to awe-struck

Hyder Hyder
10/21/2013 01:36 AM

Comment Shahzia Batool has here obviously proved herself that she is amazing when it comes to penning down judicious review of literary pieces especially written by African writers. Chijioke Ogbuike is a much erudite writer and his 'Pregnant Thoughts' throws light on the new emerging Africa if the scenario of present Nigeria is to be treated as the right parameter.
Through this review on the work, Shahzia has aroused a curiosity in the minds od discerning readers to understand the new trends in African poetry apart from what Chijioke Ogbuike has to say.
Miss Shahzia is a famous poet and educator and now she has brought out her identity as a fine critic too with this write. Thank you Shahziaji for sharing this link.

M.D Dinesh Nair
10/18/2013 09:51 AM

Comment I'm grateful to Shazia, not only for her careful reading of Ogbuike's poetry, but also for her research and understanding of the larger historical and cultural context in which it was written. This review offers much food for thought!

Paul Adrian Fried
10/15/2013 17:19 PM

Comment Brilliant !
She is one of those few fairly dedicated critiques & reviewers who worship their work.

Parul Rastogi
10/15/2013 09:07 AM

Comment A comprehensive and complete review of the Book " pregnant thoughts". This review not only deals with the quality of content yet fairly analyzes the author's perceptions explained within. Remarkable work !

10/15/2013 08:42 AM

Comment A wonderful review. Long time I read something like this!

10/15/2013 07:56 AM

Comment shahzia'a criticism/review.foreword is always as much creative as critical analysis of poems,she is a superb literary critic being endowed with great command on language and theme and range . i enjoyed reading her criticism,
her criticism adds worth and value to the book,thanx shahzia

10/15/2013 01:44 AM

Comment Shazia Naqvi is an emerging critique & poet. She is one of those critique who spend time to study a manuscript/book and evaluate its contents fairly and squarely. The present review of poetry book ‘The Pregnant Thoughts by Chijioke Ogbuike ‘ is no exception. The review clearly brings out the knowledge of reviewer about the poet i.e his profile and background and subject matter she is dealing with through various interpretations of some of the poems included in the book. An excellent review.
The day is not far off when Shazia Naqvi will be a sought after critique and reviewer.

Tribhawan Kaul
10/14/2013 07:04 AM

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